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Q1: Multivitamins and Sports Performance

Q: Can a multivitamin improve my fitness results and sports performance?

A: In a roundabout way, yes. Improve your overall health and your performance will follow suit. “Taking a daily multivitamin isn’t going to increase your sports performance right away, but it will help over the long term,” says Mike Roussell, PhD, author of The Six Pillars of Nutrition: A Simple Diet Solution for Permanent Weight Loss, Better Health, and a Longer Life. “Multivitamins can help fill any essential nutrient gaps in your diet and correct deficiencies that could compound over time and work against your fitness results,” he explains. If you’re an athlete, Roussell suggests considering an additional mineral supplement that provides extra zinc and magnesium. These minerals are readily depleted during intense activity, and magnesium depletion in healthy people has been shown to decrease cardiovascular function during exercise. But don’t megadose on any supplement unless you’re following the advice of your health professional. And, keep in mind that the natural form is always better than synthetic, so whenever possible, eat real food instead of relying on a laboratory-based chemical process.

Q2: Agility Ladder Drills

Q: Do agility ladder drills really make you more agile?

A: Not exactly. “There’s a difference between having fast feet and being agile,” says Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS, co-owner of Cressey Performance, an athletic training facility in Hudson, Mass. Being agile implies that you put a substantial amount of force into the ground in order to change which direction your body is moving. But you can have fast feet and not put much force into the ground at all: Just imagine hot-footing it over burning coals! While agility ladders do improve foot speed, they don’t improve agility as defined in that way.

“I’m not a huge agility ladder guy, because I don’t like the idea of an athlete staring at his or her feet while training,” Cressey adds. “Even more than that, I don’t think these movements net a big enough training effect. I’d rather include more exaggerated changes of direction to improve an athlete’s ability to decelerate and push off in another direction.” To accomplish that, include cone drills such as T-drills (see video demonstration at

Your best bet for becoming more agile is to improve your lower-body strength with resistance training. Include plyometric (jumping) drills to teach your body to recruit muscle fibers fast, and do some change-of-direction work. But you don’t have to ditch your ladder completely: Agility ladder drills can serve as a great dynamic warm-up that gets you moving in ways other than forward and backward.

Q3: Link Between Sleep and Heavy Weight Lifting

Q: I sleep a lot — about 10 hours a night. I also lift heavy three to five times a week. Could the two be related?

A: Definitely. Sleep is an important component of exercise recovery, and one we overlook too often, notes Sara Wiley, MS, CSCS, MAT, associate director of strength and conditioning for the University of Minnesota. She should know: She’s charged with the impossible task of making sure a slew of college-age athletes get enough z’s. “Sleep, hydration and nutrition are the first places we look when performance tanks,” she says. “You’re stressing your body during training, and it needs to regenerate. Recovery time differs for everyone.” It’s also important to note that the body doesn’t differentiate between types of stress — it could be your workouts, or it could be work or a relationship, or all of the above. Take inventory of what else is going on, and see if you can lighten your load. Wiley also suggests that you make sure to include active recovery days and relaxation exercises, noting that constantly blasting through heavy sessions may not be a workable long-term strategy.

If you feel good and you can spare the time for dreamland, however, carry on. “If you need 48 to 72 hours to recover and you’re working out that often, you need all the sleep you can get,” says Ian Mellis, director of the Results Fast gym in Hertfordshire, England. So feel free to sleep in without apology.

Jen Sinkler

Jen Sinkler, PCC, RKC-II, is a fitness writer and personal trainer based in Minneapolis. Her website is

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